Nino Selimaj knows a thing or two about the hospitality business. Restaurant mogul and owner of six Italian eateries in New York (which, coincidentally, have names that start with Nino’s), Selimaj has been critically praised for wining and dining patrons of New York City ever since 1978. Nino’s Tuscany, his Italian steakhouse on West 58th, is no exception to his rule. Charming and elegant, this little hideaway is comprised of warm and attentive service and good food. Just a few blocks from the notorious shopping strip of Fifth Avenue, bustling Times Square and sprawling Central Park, Nino’s is a great finishing point to an exciting day of exploring all of what New York City has to offer.
If you arrive before your guests (which I did), I highly recommend you seat yourself at the cozy little bar to your right, where you’ll meet a kind bartender who knows the nightly specials just as well as how to make a stiff martini. He’ll get your mouth watering well before you even glance at the menu, and he’s good company. When you do finally sit and get to take a look at the menu, you’ll find a healthy offering of Italian classics, marked by Tuscan influence and steak house flare. Dishes here are unfussy but created with care. If you’re craving Italian (and you know that kind of craving I’m talking about), Nino’s Tuscany hits the spot.
To elaborate, let’s start at the beginning. While each appetizer is designed to feed one person individually, it was hard for us to settle, so we ordered a couple to share. First we went for the special of bufala mozzarella; a simple creation of creamy, smooth bufala, placed on top of a ripe and well seasoned tomato. The complete bite was finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and a taste of a roasted red pepper. It was refreshing and delicious, and was a great introduction to its counterpart on the table, the lamb meatballs served in a lemon and rosemary sauce. Our earnest waiter plated these petite balls for us with a spoonful of sauce drizzled on top. When I took a bite, I immediately tasted the tenderness of the seasoned lamb soaked in a buttery, sweet tang of the lemon sauce. We were off to a great start.
The great part about the way we ordered is that we each craved something entirely different from each other; the result being that we each got a well-rounded taste of everything Nino’s had to offer. My dinner partner enjoyed one of Nino’s handmade raviolis stuffed with ricotta and spinach and served in a tomato basil sauce. Beautifully presented in a rich red hue, this dish was just as delicious as it was understated. The raviolis were plump with stuffing and the sauce had just the right hint of basil. My other dinner companion had the filet of sole, roasted whole and deboned right at the table. Nino’s played it smart and let the fish and its fresh flavor do all of the work with this one. It was light and lemony. In my usual fashion, I went with the special, thinly pounded veal scallopini, sauteed in a Parmesan crust and served in a creamy lemony sauce. The beauty of this special was that it was right to the point; tenderly cooked veal and a side of mashed potatoes and string beans. I could cut the veal with my fork it was so soft, and the sides were the perfect additions without stealing the show from the main event.
That’s the beauty about Nino Selimaj and his empire of trattorias. They know just what you want and create it in an uncomplicated manner with grace and class. Nino’s Tuscany may not be where you want to go when you’re looking for something new and exotic to try, but when you’ve got your mind on the old familiar – anti pastos, heaping bowls of homemade pasta, and tender veal filets – Nino’s Tuscany is the place to be.
Because I can’t resist, I’ve adapted a recipe from that absolutely mouthwatering special I enjoyed at Nino’s Tuscany this past week. It may not be as great as what Nino himself may have made it, but this recipe is undemanding for the most part and a great choice for a very special Italian dinner. Tip: if you do not have a meat tenderizer, a butcher will usually have no problem pounding your veal cutlets for you.
Parmesan Crusted Veal Scallopini
2 veal cutlets (4-6 oz each), pounded thinly to about ⅛ inch thick
¼ c all purpose flour
¼ c grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅓ c white wine
½ c chicken stock
s + p
Combine all purpose flour, grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper in a re-seable plastic bag and mix so that everything is evenly combined. Add veal cutlets to bag and shake so that each cutlet is evenly coated in the flour/Parmesan mixture.
Heat the olive oil on medium high heat; once shimmering, add veal cutlets and brown until cooked, about 1-2 minutes a side (warning: take caution, you do not want to overcook the veal and this can happen in a blink of an eye). Once cooked, removed from pan and deglaze the pan by adding white wine and scraping up brown bits as you go. Let wine cook and reduce until it has almost completely evaporated, and then add chicken stock. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Pour sauce over cooked veal cutlets, garnish with parsley and enjoy!
Can you create Nino's veal all by yourself?